OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Infrastructure can support our society and economy; it can help countries and regions achieve their sustainability objectives and save money if integrated into other policies. People who live in green environments need less medical care while children who live closer to green areas play outside more, which has been shown to reduce child obesity by 15%. Protected areas – the cornerstone of Green Infrastructure – provide up to 6 million full time jobs across the EU. Natural solutions are often much cheaper than grey solutions in the long run and provide multiple benefits – the Belgian SIGMA II Project in the Scheldt Estuary which aims to solve flooding is expected to provide 850 million EUR worth of benefits between 2010 and 2100. Long term thinking and investing in nature is the way for a better society!


Click on the titles to learn more about each case

The European Commission’s Wilderness Guidance

wilderness guidanceThe European wilderness preservation system shall not take over or overwhelm the existing Natura 2000 Network. However, existing wilderness should be protected strictly and restored where possible. There is significant pressure from investment, economic development and existing tools such as Environmental Impact Assessments are biased towards socio-economic aspects. Oftentimes the optimal size of wilderness is not straightforward, as in Kalkalpen National Park, Austria. Systematic approach to restoring wilderness should be to designate 75% as wilderness, prohibit timber extraction, decrease fragmentation and close and remove existing roads. Exception from these rules should be created for situations such as a bark beetle outbreak, avalanches or floods. Optimal Natura 2000 management requires the cooperation of various stakeholders and precise species monitoring. Wilderness requires non-intervention stewardship which might change biodiversity on site level but it contributes to halting biodiversity loss on a larger (e.g. regional) scale. The social effect of implementing wilderness management include increased tourism, health and even peaceful reconciliation. The wilderness approach is part of a landscape approach and the European Wilderness Society aims to identify, designate, manage and promote wilderness areas.

Riparian Eroded Habitat Green Roof of Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland

Source: Centrum Nauki Kopernik

Source: Centrum Nauki Kopernik

Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland has recently opened a green garden on its roof. In addition to a beautiful view over the river Vistula, the Old Town and the National Stadium across the river, the garden itself is very interesting. It was designed to resemble a riparian eroded habitat with volcanic elements. The walking paths mirror streams flow between craters (which act as roof windows and let light inside the building) and flower beds with several dozen species of plants resistant to difficult soil and water conditions, as the climate on the roof is dry, sunny, windy and accompanied by frequent water stress. Thus, many xerothermic plants which are able to store water well and have defence mechanisms against water loss were chosen. Tours of the garden guided by a botanist, Vistula bird watching workshops are available as well as night star gazing workshops. The roof is thus a great place for recreation and relaxation. In addition, it is located in the middle of the Bird Natura 2000 Site “Middle Vistula Valley” it attracts insects and birds. Furthermore, in winter it acts as isolation for the building while in summer it prevents the roof from overheating. The garden is open freely to the public from late spring till late autumn.

Scheldt Estuary, Belgium – A natural answer to flooding

Source: Bird Life

Source: Bird Life

As a result of a catastrophic flooding in 1976, the Flemish government chose for a sustainable solution instead of building massive dams and artificial elements. To address the flooding and affiliated environmental challenges, 100.000 euro per hectare was invested for restoring estuaries and wetlands and constructing a system of small dykes. Such notable investment is valued to bring benefits of 740 million euro through providing services such as flood alleviation, water purification, soil loss control and an additional 150 million euro through the ecological and cultural services (tourism, recreation, protection of habitats, etc.)

Nummela, Finland – Cost-effective natural solutions

Source: University of Helsinki

Agricultural and urban development negatively affected the water-shed of Lake Enajarvi, in Southern Finland, causing deterioration of water quality, increase in eutrophication and loss of freshwater species. In addition, due to increased surface water runoffs, erosion, flooding and draught also affected the neighbouring settlements such as Nummela. All of this made the municipality to find a solution. Funded by the local and regional authorities, they decided to construct a wetland along the stream feeding the lake, to restore water habitats and enjoy the additional services they will provide. Due to the restoration of wetlands, sediment and surface water runoffs were significantly reduced, leading to the improvement of water quality and water habitats, providing at the same time cultural and recreation services. Since then, the area has become a home for a number of vulnerable and threatened species of frogs and birds. It is estimated that setting up this urban wetland structure equalled to 1/5 of the cost that would have incurred if the artificial pipes and drainage system, which would have had no additional benefits for the environment and society, had been used.

Turf Sports Fields

Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

Location: Manhattan, New York, United States

Project Description:The Asphalt to Turf project involved the conversion of deteriorating asphalt sports fields in densely populated neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs of New York City into durable synthetic turf fields. The project was broken down into five bid contracts for a total of 22 fields at 18 different sites. The most environmentally sustainable materials and construction methods were used. A hybrid sub-surface retention/infiltration system (with the addition of perimeter rain gardens where possible) was designed to capture and recharge approximately 90% of annual rainfall for the majority of the parks; a reduction in excavation and the amount of aggregate used minimized hauling; and trees were planted locally to offset the carbon footprint. This resulted not only in greener sites, but also in recreation areas that better met the needs of the local communities.

Design features: A cistern system, which reduces and controls storm water, was developed for under the synthetic turf fields. This system, which was used at all sites, consists of a series of perforated polyethylene pipes wrapped in stone-lined infiltration trenches with overflow connections to the city system. Recharging 90% storm on-site vs. existing 90% off-site discharge.

Estimated Cost of Project: $1,000,000-$5,000,000

Source: Public Funding, New York City – PlaNYC

Cost Impact: Costs associated with converting impervious surfaces to pervious surfaces and infiltration system were no higher than those of standard construction practices.

Job hours devoted to project: Planning and Design: 600 hours Construction: 125 hours

Community & economic benefits that have resulted from the project: In addition to decreasing off-site discharge and recharging ground water, the conversion of the asphalt fields to synthetic turf provided local communities with more durable, low maintenance playing field surfaces that can accommodate more intensive usage. The preservation of existing trees at field perimeters and the addition of new plantings and new site amenities, coupled with designs that are ADA compliant, resulted in safer, greener, updated facilities that benefit a wide demographic and accommodate a variety of uses.

Contact: John Butz, ASLA (architect), email: jbutz@nullabbnyc.com


Ecoroof Incentives

Author: TonyTheTiger

Author: TonyTheTiger

Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

Population served:550,000

Project Description: An analysis of ecoroofs versus conventional roofs in Portland demonstrated sufficient public benefits to help justify the adoption of an incentive program to encourage private construction and continue a policy of requiring ecoroofs on city-owned construction projects. Portland’s ecoroof program began in 2001. As of 2008, eight city buildings had ecoroofs totaling 30,000 square feet, and there were more than 1 million square feet of ecoroofs and roof gardens within the City of Portland.

Benefits to building owners were found to be significant, but they do not accrue until sometime after year 20. By year 40 the city estimated that the owner of a building with an ecoroof would save a total of $400,000. Given that this longer-term payback may not be sufficient incentive for developers to build green roofs, the city has provided incentives to help offset the initial higher costs of ecoroofs. The extended life of ecoroofs as compared to conventional roofs also helps make the economic case for ecoroof construction.

A wide array of benefits was identified, and some were quantified and/or monetized. Even though all of the ecological benefits were not monetized, the analysis shows economic benefits accrue from ecoroof implementation.

Other communities can use this analysis to assess the benefits of ecoroofs for improving the livability of cities and managing stormwater runoff to achieve multiple benefits, including cost savings.

Design Features: Ecoroofs

Estimated Costs and Benefits

Ecoroof costs

Lessons Learned: has been able to quantify many of the ancillary benefits of ecoroofs and has found that publicizing these benefits presents a more convincing argument for the program than simply describing the importance of stormwater management. The most effective driver in convincing the construction industry, developers, and others to construct ecoroofs is the extended life of an ecoroof – 40 years – as compared to the 20-year life of a conventional roof. Constraints faced by BES include difficulties in extrapolating findings from the literature to the City of Portland and monetizing benefits. Hopes to monetize other benefits (e.g., from carbon sequestration, reduced heat island effects, and increased habitats) in future studies.

Contacts: Terry Miller (Ecoroof program information), email: tmiller@nullci.portland.or.us, Tom Liptan (cost-benefit analysis), email: toml@nullbes.ci.portland.or.us

Link: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/green/upload/lid-gi-programs_report_8-6-13_combined.pdf (pages A55-60)


Report on Socio-Economic Benefits of Wetland Restoration in Central and Eastern Europe

Green Infrastructure_stakeholder_cooperation Presentation by Agnes Zolyomi

Green Infrastructure Strategy Presentation by Agnes Zolyomi

Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Design, implementation and cost elements of Green Infrastructure projects

The Multifunctionality of Green Infrastructure

The Guide to Multi-Benefit Cohesion Policy Investments in Nature and Green Infrastructure.

Green Infrastructure’s Contribution to Economic Growth: A Review.

 The Social Dimension of Biodiversity Policy

The Cost of Policy Inaction: The case of not meeting the 2010 biodiversity target.

The costs of not implementing the environmental acquis.

Support for Ecological Networks in European Nature Conservation

Balancing Regional Planning and Ecological Networks

Guidelines for involving stakeholders in the implementation of ecological networks

Connecting the green lines – what is the current state of play of green infrastructure elements in the Visegrad countries and what does it tell us about future opportunities?

Background paper: Green Infrastructure – Expert Workshop

Spatial analysis of green infrastructure in Europe

Resource‑efficient green economy and EU policies

Green infrastructure: better living through nature-based solutions 

Towards A Sustainable and Genuinely Green Economy. The value and social significance of ecosystem services in Finland (TEEB for Finland)

Supporting the Implementation of Green Infrastructure 

The science, policy and practice of nature-based solutions: An interdisciplinary perspective

Online course on Green Infrastructure